By Sumayyah Meehan, TMO
The race to be slim transcends race, gender and even socio-economic status. It also transcends borders with women in the United States wanting to be slim equally as much as women in other parts of the world. However, in the Middle East, there is a revived push to be slim. It is evident on the shelves of grocery stores, which are filled with low fat and low carb foodstuffs. It is also apparent in regional newspapers, which routinely run ads for fitness centers and even liposuction for those who prefer a faster method of weight loss. Blame it on the Internet or satellite TV that streams American sitcoms, movies and reality shows non-stop. Regardless of the reason, scores of women in the Middle East are looking to get slim fast.
What is most disturbing is that rarely, if ever, does a certified health body regulate weight loss products imported into the Middle East. Granted, popular American products like Slim Fast and Weight Watchers have a trusted brand. Others however do it. And the bulk of weight loss products flooding into the market are manufactured in China, which has a global reputation for tainted and unsafe products. In Kuwait, for example, Chinese dieting products saturate the weight loss market. These products are sold just about anywhere there is a cash register including grocery stores, pharmacies, department stores, small boutiques and hair salons.
The range of products is immense. Some of the most popular include slimming teas and coffee, weight loss tablets, edible acai berry flavored gel and milkshake powders. Buyers are easily scammed into believing the claims listed on the labels. Unscrupulous manufacturers have gone as far as putting fake celebrity endorsements right on the product label. Dr. Oz and Kim Kardashian are just two American celebrities whose images are falsely used to sell the unregulated weight loss products.
The problem is so rampant in Abu Dhabi, a municipality of the UAE, that authorities are cracking down on merchants hawking the potentially dangerous weight loss products. A recent study conducted by the Health Authority Abu Dhabi (HAAD) revealed harmful chemicals in a review of 30 weight loss products. Approximately half of the products were found to contain carcinogens that can cause cancer and other chemicals that can cause heart-related illnesses, such as increased blood pressure or an irregular heartbeat. Clinics and hospitals in Abu Dhabi have also recorded several cases of young women being admitted with kidney failure as a direct result of using a slimming product for an extended period of time.